When Anne Nyer Shields arrived at Berkeley Prep as a ninth grader, Alexis Saunders was one of the first people she met.
"She always had a smile on her face," said Nyer Shields. "I think it's important to remember that."
The girls became best friends, and later, part of a close-knit alumni community. About eight years ago, Saunders, an animal lover and runner, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died in 2009 at the age of 34.
Soon after, Nyer Shields was shopping at Cleanse Apothecary in Seminole Heights. She mentioned to co-owner Greg Curtis that she was organizing a 5K fundraiser in honor of her friend. Curtis offered his business for another event in honor of Saunders called Fauna Fest.
This year's event - which features Fauna pet care products for sale, FitLife Foods, prizes and raffle tickets - will be held from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Cleanse Apothecary, 5127 N. Florida Avenue. A portion of sales at Cleanse Apothecary that night will be donated to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Curtis said.
"I think it's an awesome event, and helps you to realize that just because your friends have left you, they are always with you," Curtis said.
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay was chosen because Saunders loved animals, Nyer Shields said.
"People asked where to send money, and we wanted to support the Humane Society," she said. "Toward her (Saunders's) end, she said she wanted to support the humane society. We decided to raise money for their new low cost clinic. We got the lobby, and it's in memory of her."
A few days after Fauna Fest this year, the third annual Run to Remember Alexis Saunders will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 2 at Al Lopez Park, 4810 N. Himes Avenue in Tampa.
The run, Nyer Shields said, kicks off the Humane Society's Bark in the Park.
Nyer Shields said getting Saunders's friends and family together for the 5K and Fauna Fest is important.
"Every year, it's a nice reminder of our friendships, and that we all grew up in Tampa," she said. "It's a nice, big reunion."
Click here for more information about the run. Call Cleanse Apothecary at 813-473-0305 for more information about Fauna Fest.
Have you been to Fauna Fest or run the 5K? Tell us in the comments.